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New York Minute

I don’t live in luxury.  I don’t reside in one of those pre-war Park Avenue buildings with those heavy glass and wrought-iron doors and the subdued dark wood paneling on the walls. Nor do I live in one of those gleaming apartment “towers” that dot the skyline.

I live in a simple, non-descript seven-story brick building erected in 1965 in Queens. But, our building (a co-op in which I am renting) does have one of those items seen in the “classier” buildings . . . a doorman.

Having lived in walk-up brownstones, residing in a doorman building is a treat. You have an added sense of safety when you arrive home. They hold packages for you, rather than you having to trudge to the post office or asking a neighbor to take in an expected parcel for you. They usually know what’s going on in the building before any of your neighbors.

Our building provides doorman coverage from 10AM-11:30PM weekdays, and 2-10PM on the weekends. Our doormen aren’t dressed in matching grey suits and hats like the ones you find “on the avenue”, but they’re always wearing nice shirts, ties and jackets.

I’ve only been in the building for a little over three years, but I understand that our weekday doorman has been in that position for many years. We haven’t been quite as fortunate in terms of night doormen.

The first one I met was a then-recent immigrant in his late 30s/early 40s, who was in the midst of studying for Medical School. He’d have one eye on the front door, and one on his books. It isn’t a bad gig for someone looking to have some quiet time while making a little dough. Sure enough, when he got his notice of acceptance into Med School, he gave up the doorman job.

His replacement was a nice-enough fellow, probably late-40s, wife, two small children. I came home one night to find him polishing the brass handrails. He held the bottle of polish up and asked me somewhat hesitantly “do you think this is safe to use on these rails?” I took a look at the bottle, and assured him it was OK. Another time, I came home at 11:30PM, to find his family waiting in the lobby for him to pack up and go home. Whatever his story was, it was short . . . he was gone within one month.

Next came Silvio, a Hispanic fellow in his early-to-mid 20s with a quiet demeanor and a well-kept ponytail and goatee. Silvio didn’t have any textbooks with him at the desk. Sometimes there would be a laptop, sometimes he’d be chatting on a celphone headset. I often wondered why someone his age would be subjecting himself to sitting behind a desk and collecting the recycling in an apartment building every weeknight. Was he saving his dollars for something? Was he between “real jobs”?

One night a few weeks ago, I came home to find that Silvio had ditched the ponytail. I thought, “hmmm . . . job interview coming up?”  Maybe I was right, as Silvio was gone a week later. His replacement hasn’t been hired yet, but I’m sure he’ll have his own story.

Yanks get a Marginal Reward

If you’ve been a follower of the Banter for a while, you know we’ve assigned little “nicknames” to some of our favorite Yankees (and opponents). Some of these names are based upon physical stature (ex. diminutive Dustin Pedroia has earned the moniker “My Little Pony”). Some are based upon anagrams of their names (ex. Sergio Mitre anagrams to “Orgies Timer”).

Well, back on August 7, 2008, during a Rangers/Yankees game, in the comments section of a post discussing (speak of the recent devil) Joba Chamberlain’s health, a new anagram was born. I had brought up for discussion the ‘do of a Texas Rangers pitcher with the delicious name of Warner Madrigal. A few moments later, after running his name through my anagramming software (it shouldn’t surprise anyone to read that I possess such an item), I chimed in that the chunky reliever’s name anagrammed to “MARGINAL REWARD”.  A legend was born.

Now Madrigal’s legend was actually conceived earlier that season, when the 6’1″, 265-pounder made his made his major league debut in a game at Yankee Stadium.  With the Rangers leading 7-6 in the bottom of the 7th, Madrigal took to the mound, and was greeted thusly:
B. Abreu, Ground-rule Double (Fly Ball to LF Line)
A. Rodriguez, Walk
J. Giambi, Double to LF (Line Drive to Deep LF); Abreu Scores; Rodriguez Scores
J. Posada, Double to RF (Ground Ball); Giambi Scores
R. Cano, Single to RF (Ground Ball); Posada to 3B
W. Betemit, Groundout: 2B-P; Posada Scores; Cano to 2B
B. Gardner, Wild Pitch; Cano to 3B
B. Gardner, Single to RF (Line Drive to Short CF-RF); Cano Scores
Jamey Wright relieves Madrigal

Madrigal ended his debut with an ERA of 162.00, which exceeded his Body Mass Index only slightly.

He recovered enough to finish the year with an ERA under 5.00, but 2009 saw him battle wildness and a pesky forearm problem. After spending 2010 in the minors, pitching well for Oklahoma City, the Rangers released him at the end of the year.

Now, according to a tweet from Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus, the Yanks have signed “The Marginal One”, presumably to a minor-league deal.

Let’s hope he can make the big club, if only to see him possibly wrap up a blowout win for equally “full-bodied” CC Sabathia.

(photo credit: TR Sullivan/MLB.COM)

There's a Trade Up in Them Thar Trees

If you are a fan of the sports infographic representations of Flip Flop Fly Ball, then you might also enjoy a site called “MLB Trade Trees“.

From the site’s home page: “Find out how MLB trades evolved from a historian/baseball nerd in Iowa.”

The site isn’t splashy, but its quietly interesting, and the owner promises improvements.

Larkin Jeter Overdrive

Over at Baseball Prospectus, John Perrotto discusses his Hall of Fame Ballot.  Here is his comment on Barry Larkin:

Barry Larkin—Put it this way: If Derek Jeter had range, he’d be Barry Larkin. That’s not a knock on Jeter, just how little Larkin was appreciated because he played away from the spotlight with the Reds during his entire 19-year career. He won nine Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves, and had a .371 OBP.

We are all keenly aware of the myopic view of Jeter . . . the “winner” . . . the “heart and soul” of the Yanks recent run of excellence . . . the “nice guy”.  We are also aware of Jeter’s warts . . . the DP machine at the plate . . . the lack of range.

So, let’s play a little “what if” game . . . you are the GM of an expansion club, and you can have either Larkin or Jeter‘s entire career exactly as it has played out.  Which one do you take?

(image: Baseball Almanac)

Sherman and Mr. Peabody set sail for 1997

I recently picked up a used copy of Baseball Prospectus 1997, which was the first mass-produced annual from Messrs. Sheehan, Davenport, Kahrl, et. al. (The 1996 edition was self-published).

Here are some of the player comments based on the 1996 seasons for the now “Core Four”, and the current manager:

Derek Jeter:

Impressive debut, overshadowed by the historic season of Alex Rodriguez. Jeter hit a little better than expected and his defense, questioned in the minors, was steady all year. Odd development during the year: he hit .277 with a good walk rate and very little power in the first half, .350 with more power but few walks in the second. I expect him to keep the average and power, improve the strikeout and walk numbers and be a great player. . .

Mariano Rivera:

. . . quite possibly the most important player in baseball in that his dominance, or more accurately the threat of it, dictated the flow of the postseason. Rivera has a great fastball and not much else, which is why his current role may actually be perfect for him, allowing him to go through the lineup once but still be used more than a typical closer.

Recent history tells us that 100-inning relievers disappear quickly, but there are reasons to believe Rivera will be an exception: 1) despite the high IP total, he wasn’t used in an abusive way. No 70-pitch outings or being used for 25 pitches four straight nights; 2) he was a starter, so he’s used to a higher workload than the relievers who have burnt out and 3) he doesn’t throw a dangerous pitch, like a split-finger or slider.

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What are you doing on January 29th?

January 29th, 2011 is the annual SABR Day, with SABR chapters hosting events nationwide to celebrate the grand old game and publicize SABR.

In New York, our chapter will be teaming up with the folks from Baseball Prospectus for a gathering at Foley’s Pub in Manhattan.  The list of guests is quite impressive (including SNY’s Gary Cohen, and MLB.COM’s Cory Schwartz), and for $20, you get to nosh and schmooze and hobnob with some of the brightest minds in the game.

You need NOT be a member of SABR, or a subscriber to Baseball Prospectus to attend.  However, tickets are going fast (less than 20 left at this writing). (update) now sold out.

Hope to see you there!

(image: slurvemag.com)

Put Some “Baseball” Under Your Tree

Just a heads-up that the PBS website is offering a 1-day sale today on the complete Ken Burns’ “Baseball” DVD box set (including the new “Tenth Inning”).  Its regularly $99 . . . but today you can snag it for $45 ($6 cheaper than even Amazon).

(image: shoppbs.org)

Cashman, the Friendly Elf

Maybe its the stress of the Jeter negotiations.  Maybe its the pressure to add a front-line starter to the rotation.  Maybe its just a side of Brian Cashman we’ve never seen.  Whatever “it” is, the uncertainty and oddness of the off-season has taken another wacky turn, with news today that the Bombers’ GM will rappell down a building in an elf costume.

The Stamford Downtown Special Services District has announced Cashman will join this year’s Heights and Lights event as a celebrity guest elf, accompanying Santa Claus on a 22-floor rappel down the Landmark Building.

“Brian Cashman will be there with smiles and his Yankee jacket, rappelling,” said Sandy Goldstein, director of the DSSD.

This of course means that Cashman will cover more ground vertically than Jeter did horizontally during 2010.  I’m sure Cashman will point that out to Casey Close the next time they speak.

“Santa Claus is rarely unaccompanied in his acrobatic 350-foot descent down the side of the Landmark Building, a Stamford tradition. While the man in red is often escorted by the Grinch and Rudolph, this is the first time a member of the Yankees franchise is to take the plunge.”

Acrobatic?  Brian Cashman?  Its not like we’ve seen him deftly floating across the stage on “Dancing with the (Free Agent) Stars”.  Also, if they wanted the Grinch, I’m sure Cashman could have arranged for Hank Steinbrenner to be there.  As for Rudolph . . . no, you can’t come, Mr. Giuliani.

“Santa and Cashman will kick off the holiday season in Stamford Sunday, when they step off the Landmark building’s ledge at 4:30 p.m. Music performed by local students and a fireworks display will accompany the rappel.”

Please G-d, keep the fireworks display away from the rappelling Cashman.  If we’re going to lose our primary “rosterfarian” (they don’t eat shellfish or pork, but have been known to eat a free agent contract bust or two), let it be through the usual excuses like incompetence, paranoia or inappropriate office behavior.

“This is going to be a surprise for all,” Goldstein said. “Will he be an elf in Yankee clothing or a Yankee in elf clothing? You’ve got to come Sunday night to find out.”

Does it matter?  Its going to be Brian Cashman . . . as an elf . . . rappelling down a 22-story building!

(Image: etsy.com)

Mo-Vin On Up

Banter Birthday wishes go out to . . .

The greatest relief pitcher in history . . . Mariano Rivera (turns 41 today):

And the greatest play-by-play announcer in baseball history . . . Vin Scully (turns 83 today):

[Images: Wikipedia.org]

Reach deeper in your wallet for 2011

Bank of America ATM

The Yanks are raising ticket prices in the bleachers and some of the pricier areas in 2011.

The New York Yankees are raising the prices of some of their most expensive tickets for next year after making big cuts in 2010, and are hiking the cost of bleacher seats for only the third time in 13 years.

The price of the best field-level seats will rise to $260 as part of season ticket plans, the team said Monday. Those seats cost $250 this year, down from $325 when new Yankee Stadium opened in 2009.

Seats which had been slashed from $325 to $235 will remain unchanged, as will many other seats in the field level. Toward the outfield, tickets that had been $100 will rise to $110, and tickets that had been $75 will go up to $80.

Upper deck prices remain unchanged. Bleacher seats that had been $12 increase to $15, while $5 bleacher seats remain the same.

Image: TIME.COM

Championship Series Polls

Its time to pick the NLCS and ALCS winners:

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So, Who You Like?

Let’s get some opinions out there:

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and the most important one . . .

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Bantermetrics: And Stats The Way It Was

Here are some of the notable Yankee numbers from the season that just ended:

TEAM

  • 859: runs scored, 56 fewer than 2009.
  • .267: batting average, 16 points lower than 2009, and lowest since .268 in 2004
  • 662: walks, 1 fewer than 2009.
  • 201: homers, the 12th time in franchise history with 200 or more roundtrippers, and 43 fewer than 2009.
  • 5: players with 100 or more strikeouts (Brett Gardner / Curtis Granderson / Derek Jeter / Nick Swisher / Mark Teixeira), tied for most in team history (2002).  Jorge Posada ended with 99 strikeouts and Alex Rodriguez had 98.
  • .989: fielding percentage, a franchise record (.986, 3 times).
  • 32: triples, 11 more than 2009.
  • 4.06: ERA, lowest since 2003, but seventh in AL.
  • 42: unearned runs allowed, fewest since 1998 (37).
  • 7.09: K/9, highest since franchise-record 7.26 in 2002.

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Banter Awards 2010

Its time to hear from you regarding the AL awards for 2010.

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Master of Disaster Start

Over at Baseball Prospectus, “Friend of Banter” Jay Jaffe looks at the “Disaster Starts” of A.J. Burnett:

Burnett is in a six-way tie for the major league lead in disaster starts, with eight. As originally defined by former Baseball Prospectus columnist Jim Baker, a disaster start is one in which a starter allows as many or more runs as innings pitched. It’s the ugly flip side of a quality start, one in which a pitcher goes at least six innings while allowing three or fewer runs—a disaster because teams rarely win such games, and because they often burn through their bullpens just trying to find enough mops and buckets to get through nine innings.

Occasionally, the disaster start definition is limited to allowing more runs as innings pitched, and because the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index makes querying the latter definition much easier than the former one, we’ll stick with that for the purposes of this dumpster dive. Here’s the 2010 leaderboard, the Masters of Disaster:

Rk Player Team DS Team W-L IP/GS RA
1 Paul Maholm PIT 8 0-8 3.3 19.91
A.J. Burnett NYA 8 0-8 3.4 18.67
Scott Kazmir LAA 8 0-8 4.5 13.38
Jonathon Niese NYN 8 2-6 4.4 12.99
Kyle Kendrick PHI 8 3-5 4.0 12.79
Justin Masterson CLE 8 0-8 4.8 12.08
7 Charlie Morton PIT 7 0-7 2.9 20.80
Joe Saunders 2TM 7 1-6 3.7 17.18
Kyle Lohse SLN 7 0-7 3.8 16.41
Brian Matusz BAL 7 2-5 3.3 15.26
Brad Bergesen BAL 7 1-6 3.8 15.19
Nick Blackburn MIN 7 1-6 3.8 14.70
Matt Garza TBA 7 1-6 4.2 13.04
Javier Vazquez NYA 7 3-4 4.2 11.83

. . . While it’s cold comfort to Yankees fans at the moment—perhaps less so now that they’ve clinched a playoff spot—the recently hapless Burnett rates as a pretty good pitcher in the grand scheme of things. Coming into this year, he’d put up a 3.83 ERA and 8.8 K/9 since 2004. He still misses bats at an above-average clip, his SIERA (4.42) is around league-average, but his BABIP (.323) is inflated; basically, he’s in a rut compounded by some bad luck. Thanks to the spaced-out schedule, he’s unlikely to get a first-round playoff start. He may just have painted his last disasterpiece of the season.

Pitching in the future

Over on Baseball Prospectus.com, Kevin Goldstein runs down the seasons of top Yankee pitching prospects.  Some excerpted highlights:

Andrew Brackman: . . . key to his breakout was more consistent mechanics . . the 92-96 mph heat suddenly showed up every time out . . . breaking ball now a big power breaker that gives him a second plus pitch.

Dellin Bentances: 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds . . . stuff is even better (than 6′ 10″ Brackman), with 1-2 mph more on his fastball, an equally solid curveball and even better command.

Manny Banuelos: 19 . . .  at Double-A this year, had a 2.51 ERA, struck out 85 in 64 2/3 innings . . . his velocity went from the low 90s to consistently sitting at 92-95 mph, while his curveball became a more consistent offering with sharp break and his changeup remained the plus pitch it always has been.

The (over)managers and Burnett gonna make you sweat

AJ Burnett, yet another of the  inconsistent Yankee starting pitchers making these last few weeks more ulcer-inducing than they would normally be, took the mound on a 92 degree, 42 percent humidity Saturday night in Arlington.

There was dead, damp air all around the stadium, with no wind to speak of.  The Rangers fans were given, and futily used, handheld “paddle” fans to deal with the heat.  All Burnett had was a rosin bag.  AJ used that bag so much in the first four innings, you would have sworn they registered at Tiffany’s.

As you could expect, Burnett’s command, never a strong suit of his, suffered from the sweaty environs.  He couldn’t place his breaking stuff consistently, but managed to pump his fastball by enough Ranger batters to keep himself in the game.

A leadoff walk to Elvis Andrus eventually led to a run when Vlad Guerrero laced a tailing fastball for a single to center.  The Yanks put a rally together against Tommy Hunter in the top of the second as Robinson Cano doubled down the right field line and Lance Berkman knocked a ribbie single to center. Curtis Granderson singled to put runners at 1st and 2nd.

Then the Yanks got a bit of a gift, as Ian Kinsler dropped what could have been an inning-ending DP ball, instead settling for a fielder’s choice force out.  Francisco Cervelli redeemed the gift certificate with a lined single to center, putting the Yanks up 2-1.

After Burnett recorded the first two outs in the third, he walked David Murphy, and then Guerrero pulled an 81 mph pitch to left for an RBI double to tie the game.

Both pitchers were vacillating between swinging strikeouts and walks through the first four and a half innings (Burnett 6K, 3BB; Hunter 8K, 3BB).  Then, a heavy rain appeared as Burnett started the fifth, and the tarp was called for as he had a 2-2 count on Michael Young.  When the rain delay finally ended 59 minutes later, Joe Girardi brought in Chad Gaudin.  So, Friday night’s reliever merry-go-round got an early start Saturday.

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Javy ‘nother one? No thanks, Thames a-wastin’.

The roller coaster season of Javy Vazquez resumed today as he returned to the starting rotation for the second time in 2010.  His most recent rotation sabbatical resulted in two relief appearances (4.1 and 4.2 innings) in which he allowed a total of four hits and two walks.  Interestingly, those two appearances were each as long or longer than any of the last three starts prior to his banishment to the pen.  Perhaps manager Joe Girardi liked this matchup for Vazquez’s return to the hill, as Javy was 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA and only three hits allowed in 11 innings versus the Jays this season.  On the other hand, the wind was blowing out to right at 21 MPH at gametime, and “Homerun Javy” (27 allowed this season) has been a flyball pitcher his entire career.  In fact, his 0.54 GB:FB rate this season is his career worst.  The next worst season?  2004, when he pitched for … yes, the Yanks.

But the Yanks had hope as they faced Blue Jay starter Mark Rzepczynski.  He came into the game with a 6.03 ERA, and had been torched for six runs and eight hits in three innings by the Bombers just two weeks ago.

Vazquez started strong with a seven-pitch top of the first, getting Jose Bautista on a swinging strikeout to end the inning.  With one out in the  second, Lyle Overbay launched a meatball slider into the jetstream to right, and the Jays took a 1-0 lead.  After a walk to John Buck and an Adam Lind popout to short, John McDonald banged another misfired slider high off the left field foul pole, and all of a sudden it was 3-0.

Meanwhile, Rzepczynski sailed through the first two innings, save for a first inning leadoff single to Brett Gardner.  Gardner swiped his 4oth base of the year (though replays showed him to be out), but he was stranded there.

Then the bottom of the third came, and Rzepczynski remembered who and what he was and whom he was facing.  Eduardo Nunez grounded out to short, but Francisco Cervelli pulled a pitch to left, and hustled his way to a double thanks to a weak-armed Travis Snider.  Gardner walked, and then Derek Jeter also pulled one into left for a double, scoring Cervelli.  Mark Teixeira followed with a walk, and Robinson Cano, who had been in a 0-12 slide, bounced one up the middle, scoring Gardner and Jeter and tying the game at 3.

Meanwhile, Vazquez was continuing to find no command of his slider, instead relying on an 87-89 MPH fastball and a 72-75 MPH change.  He managed to avert further damage in the third and fourth, despite two more walks and a single.

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Bantermetrics: Sabathia likes the Stadium

Much has been made of CC Sabathia’s prowess in Yankee Stadium.  Here was what Sunday’s Yankee “Game Notes” had on Sabathia’s hometown hammer:

CREATURE OF COMFORT: Is undefeated in his last 19 starts at Yankee Stadium – dating back to the 2009 All-Star break, posting a 14-0 record with a 2.27 ERA (135.0IP, 34ER) and a .207 opp BA. (100-for-483)…the Yankees have gone 17-2 in those starts…according to Elias, it is the longest active home winning streak in the Majors.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is the longest undefeated streak of starts by any pitcher at any stadium since Johan Santana’s 24-start undefeated streak at the Metrodome from 8/6/05-4/2/07.

Elias also notes it is the longest undefeated streak of starts by a Yankee at any stadium since Ron Guidry did not record a loss over 19 starts at the original Yankee Stadium from 5/4/85-4/29/86…should Sabathia not lose today, it will mark the longest home winning streak by a Yankee since Whitey Ford from 8/8/64-8/18/65 (21GS).

So, with his win today, he marches up the list of longest streaks without a loss at home.  Yes, that is *the* Kenny Rogers topping the list, with an amazing 38 consecutive starts at home without a loss, spread over four different teams over a nearly three year period.

KC and the Sunshine . . . Banned

Credit: Getty Images

The Yanks prior series with the Royals this season, back in July at the Stadium, featured nearly four hours of rain delays.  Apparently the rain likes these teams . . . a lot.

It was 98 degrees with a Heat Index of 106 at the start of Friday’s game.  Nasty clouds were just off to the west.  The wind was blowing in hard from left to right.  Thunderstorms were in the forecast.  The Royals’ Kyle Davies, with a 5.21 ERA, a 1.544 WHIP and less than 6K per nine innings was taking on Dustin Moseley (he of the pitch-to-contact, 4.7K per nine).  It had all the makings of a looooong evening.

Moseley struggled mightily with his command in the first two innings, laboring through 55 pitches, allowing three runs on six hits.  Given the lack of command, Jorge Posada was pretty much helpless to stop the Royals aggressive baserunning, as KC stole four bases (three by Gregor Blanco).  It could have been worse, had Blanco managed to dislodge a tag from Posada at home on a hit in the first inning (credit to Brett Gardner for a nice one-bounce throw).

Meanwhile Davies spaced out two walks and a hit through two.  But then, he remembered he was Kyle Davies, and the third inning resembled one that sends Joe Posnanski into fits of depression.  After a Derek Jeter groundout to short, Curtis Granderson singled to center.  Mark Teixeira doubled sharply down the RF line, sending Granderson to third.  Alex Rodriguez scorched one to Royals 2B Mike Aviles, who couldn’t handle it, and it was scored a hit, driving in Granderson.  Robinson Cano then lined another single to right to score Teixeira and  cut the lead to one, with A-Rod advancing to second.

Jorge Posada then grounded a ball down to 1B Billy Butler, who forced out Cano at second.  Yuniesky Betancourt’s throw back to first base appeared to beat Posada to the bag, but 1B ump Fieldin Culbreth ruled that Davies missed the bag as he fielded the throw.  (Replays showed Davies may have caught the edge of the base with his right heel)  So, with first and third and two out, Lance Berkman mashed a long double to right field, scoring Rodriguez and tying the game.  Austin Kearns struck out to end the inning, and then the rains came.

31 minutes later, it was 23 degrees cooler, but Moseley was apparently heating up.  The command on his breaking stuff was improved, and his fastball didn’t sail out of the zone like it had the first two innings.  He breezed through the next two innings in 17 total pitches.

Unfortunately for the Bombers, Moseley’s gas gauge seems to hit empty around 85-90 pitches.  Pitch #84 of this evening, with one out in the fifth, was banged off the right field foul pole by Butler, putting the Royals back in front.  After a walk to clean-up hitter Wilson Betemit (yes, you read that batting order assignment right), the rains came again.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver